Monday, January 29, 2007

Trip To Fredericksburg, Texas

My wife and I completed our Third Annual Honeymoon yesterday, which was a trip to Fredericksburg, Texas. Fredericksburg is a nice, touristy-type town in the Texas Hill Country, a little south-west of Austin and a little north-west of San Antonio.

During our visit we stayed at the Main Street Bed and Breakfast. This was the first B&B experience for both us, and it was quite nice. The rooms for this particular B&B are situated on the second floor of an older building, upstairs from shops and a B&B reservation service. The room was a little on the small side, but very nice and clean. A very nice breakfast was delivered to us every morning between 8:30 and 9:00 am. A lot of attention paid to the decor of the room, with pictures on the walls, antique furniture and a 4-poster bed. My favorite part of the room was a giant spa tub in the bath. It was large enough to fit the two of us quite comfortably and was equipped with lots of jets. Since the water heater was situated in the closet of the bathroom, there was more than enough hot water to fill the thing. Very relaxing - I loved it.

Fredericksburg seems to be known chiefly for 4 things: the German heritage of it's founders and residents, shopping, wine and the National Museum of the Pacific War.

The German theme is noted all along the main street (US Highway 290 and is appropriately named "Hauptstasse"). There are a number of German-style restaurants and many of the shops sell German-themed goods.

We ate at two very good restaurants during our stay. The Brewery combined Tex-Mex, German and American food with a microbrewery making for a great dining experience. The food came in generous portions and the beer was excellent. We waddled out of there more than a little full. The onion rings were particularly tasty. "Der Lindenbaum" is a small restaurant set up very much like an authentic German Gasthaus. Here, the food was excellent and tasted very authentic. I'd rather have had spaetzle with my Jaegerschnitzel instead of mash potatoes, but I think making spaetzle is an art not too common in America. They had the Franziskaner Dunkelweitzen beer on tap - very unusual outside of Germany. That was a great capper to a great meal.

There are a number of very good specialty shops along Main Street. One of the more interesting was Rustin' Bob's Texas Gourmet Foods. This store features a very large variety of Texas-produced goodies, home made fudge, and the largest collection of hot sauces for sale I've ever seen. My wife picked up a jar of jalapeño peanut butter, which she said was quite tasty (I think it's an abomination - but that's a story for another time). We picked up a 1/2 pound of fudge, but I think my wife ate it while I wasn't looking. I did get enough of a taste of the free samples to know that fudge is among the best I've ever had and would run a close race to Mackinac Island Fudge. There was also a unique bath shop which I forgot the name of. They had the funniest rubber duckies, including a Mr. T one. (I've had enough of your jibber-jabber. You stink! Get in the tub, fool!).

There are a number of wine shops in Fredericksburg. We visited two: Texas Vineyards & Beyond and the Fredericksburg Winery. Texas Vineyards & Beyond features wines from all over the world, and especially from Texas. I knew there were some wineries in Texas, but I had no idea there were over 100 as wells as a number of excellent vineyards. The people there were very helpful, and of course, assisted with some samples. The Fredericksburg Winery makes their own wine for sale. Some of it was excellent and bought a couple, three bottles. The owner is also a big supporter of our troops overseas, which is a big plus in my eyes.

I think the highlight of our trip was our visit to The National Museum of the Pacific War (originally called the "Nimitz Museum" because Chester Nimitz was born in Fredericksburg, and the museum was once housed in a hotel owned by his family). The museum holds a vast collection of artifacts, displayed in chronological order from the opening of Japan to the West to the signing of the surrender in Tokyo Bay. It was almost too much to take in. We spent almost 3 hours walking through and reading all the displays. There is even a Japanese mini-sub which was part of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but missed its target and ran aground elsewhere on Hawaii. A few blocks from the main museum is a tour of displays depicting an airfield, a PT Boat base and a typical beach head as it would have been defended by the Japanese in those days. This tour took about an hour and was well worth it.

All in all it was a great trip. I highly recommend a visit to Fredericksburg.

Note: I was not compensated in any way for any of the opinions given here. They are my own and I am not paid to endorse any product or company.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Adolf Hitler and ... Hugo Chavez?

Rule by decree passed for Chavez

I'm very troubled by this happening in Venezuela. I can't help but wonder what the Venezuelan people were thinking about when they elected Chavez for his third term. Now, the representatives they elected are giving Chavez what amounts to dictatorial powers.

Folks, this is a play right out of the Adolf Hitler play book. Hitler and the National Socialists were swept into power, all but taking the Reichstag, as the German the national assembly was called in those days. The only check to Hitler completely taking over was Paul von Hindenburg, who was president at the time. Hindenburg, as his health and mental capacity declined, eventually signed the "Enabling Act" which paved the way for Hitler's consolidation of power when Hindenburg died in 1934. Thus Hitler was able to become dictator of Germany.

In all fairness, it must be pointed out that the Venezuelan Assembly gave Chavez such authority during the first year of his first term and it would appear he gave up those powers when the year was up.

Still, this second appointment for 18 months seems to be another nail in the coffin for democracy and free markets in Venezuela as Chavez intends to nationalize telecommunications and power generation as well as revoke any foreign ownership or share in Venezuela's oil industry. With no real opposition (opposition parties have boycotted elections since 2005), it would seem Chavez is set to take his country on the "Socialism Express" to ruin.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Pizza Patron Pesos Controversy - Why Should You Care?

Texas-Based Pizza Chain Accepts Pesos

In my opinion, you really shouldn't care. This is a tempest in a tea cup if I ever saw one. I completely understand the national debate over illegal immigration. However, I doubt if anyone is going to sneak across the border and go all the way up to Dallas just to get a pie from Pizza Patron. There are doubtless a number of pizza places in border towns up and down the US-Mexico border which take pesos and don't require a 12-hour drive to pick up an order.

Death threats? Get real people. Unless you have a Pizza Patron restaurant nearby and have some pesos sitting around, there really isn't a reason to get mixed up in all this. Besides, there are far better ways to express your displeasure over the practices of a business besides making death threats. Organize a boycott, picket outside the restaurants, email the company, write letters to the editor, etc.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Everyday Heroes

Of all the events in the news this past week, three really got me thinking: 1. The New York Subway Hero, 2. The two guys who caught the baby who fell off a fire escape from the 5th floor of a building, and 3. All the people who stopped to help those caught in the Colorado Avalanche.

These stories really got me thinking: "Why don't we hear about this kind of thing more often?" I could make a "knee-jerk" reaction and blame the media. But, are they totally to blame for the lack of good-news stories or is there just not enough good news going around?

My hope is these stories will galvanize regular folks to take time out of their lives to touch the lives of other people. I know people in the U.S. are the most generous in the world donating money to help those caught in natural disasters and the like. It would take us to the next level when people will start the make the larger step from anonymous donation to stepping in and helping people where they are face to face. I believe this kind of action will take us down a road to a place where we won't need to should shout, "Where is the government with my check" when something happens. People won't need "Big Daddy" government to help them because their neighbors will have already taken care of their needs.